Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Geez, Christmas is coming...

Yeah, that kind of went quick!  6 months since an update and that last half of the years seems to have flown by.  Progress in general on a number of different projects at first glance doesn't seem to have advanced very much, but I have been engaged in some smaller focused tasks that are keeping me quite busy in my evenings.
I have been trying to keep my attention on the Cwm Machno slate O14 layout we are working on, especially since there is a tentative deadline to when I'd hope to have it at a presentable standard.  I managed to get some time to do some more work on the large slate rock faces of this two level layout, with an initial thin coat of plaster being applied over the carved extruded foam rock walls.  The foam still has a porous look, so I wanted the thin plaster to represent the sheets of slate that normally layer up these rock faces.  I made a mix of premix plaster, Bondcrete glue and a splash of black ink, which was then applied with a small palette knife.  The first coat seems to begun to build up this layered effect ok, so will perhaps need another 1-2 coats to start getting the finish I want.
The other small part of this layout that has been keeping me occupied was assembling the small KB Scale Deutz OMZ kit.  Its a brass and white metal kit, that has some fiddly elements, but has come up ok in looks, but the mechanism side of it has been a bit of a headache.  The assembly of the drive unit required you to press one wheel onto an axle, feed through the chassis side, then press this through the final gear of the gearbox, and then press the other side wheel on and quarter it at the same time...not the easiest process and the results where less than wonderful.  It did turn the wheels and run along some test track, but it had some binds, made a horrible lot of noise, and the motor was pretty gutless (a tiny Mashima 1015).  So, the original drive train has been stripped out of it and a custom BullAnt belt drive mechanism has been ordered from Geoff at Hollywood Foundry.  With some careful movement of the drive shaft, a bigger Mashima 1020 motor will now fit under the bonnet, and the belt drive should quieten the unit down considerably.

As far as the finish goes, I was more than happy with the paint and weathering result.  It was the first time I've essentially done a paint finish using the one brand of paint and weathering products (all AK Interactive products in this case), where I think sticking with the one painting system has been quite rewarding.  Their acrylic paints airbrush very nicely with good colour consistency.  The various weathering products do the job they are meant to do.  I think what makes the finish so good is actually following the instructions for what each effect is meant to achieve, and sealing between layers.  The steps for this paint finish was a Nato Black layer, followed by a layer of "Worn Effects" (basically the "hairspray technique" but the chipping fluid gives a predictable result rather than variations from different brands of hairspray that may otherwise be used).  Shortly after the Worn Effects fluid had dried, the green and red panels were airbrushed on.  They were allowed to dry for about 20 minutes, before gently scrubbing over his coloured layer with a soft wet brush.  If anything, I think I put the green and red on thicker than I should have, so some of the chips were larger than expected.  The model was given some drying encouragement with a heat gun, and then sealed with a matt varnish.  One the sealer had dried, it was time for some age to be layered on, with various wash layers of grime and rust spots in the chipped sections.  These layers are enamel based with thinners used to move the washes around on the panels.  A further sealer layer was applied (and dried) before doing round two of more thin washes of grime and rust details.  A final matt varnish sealer was applied to finish it off.


I am just now awaiting delivery of a TCS KAM4 decoder to be installed under the hood of this loco (should fit above the BullAnt mech unit once it also arrives).  Not really room for sound and keep alive capacitors in this loco, but the preference was for reliable constant running, rather than something than makes some sound but stalls often.
Of course, the other thing that has been keeping me busy is the planning for the 13th Australian Narrow Gauge Convention, to be held in 2017 here in my home town of Geelong.  Plenty of ideas and discussions happening with the organising team here, and already getting some great interest from a good number of overseas enthusiasts who are keen to travel down under for some narrow gauge activities.  The new website is finally nearing completion, and would hope to go live now early in the new year.  In the mean time though, a Facebook page has been started for the event, where you can already find some information about the special category in the modelling contest, "The 90mm Challenge" (see below), as well as some details on other things to do around Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula for those that are travelling and wish to enjoy some tourist opportunities while in the region.
And, since it is finally Christmas Eve, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and stay safe over the holiday period.  Hope everyone gets time to spend time with their friends and families, and hopefully also some time at your modelling benches!
Oh, and shameless plug time, you may notice a new page tab at the top of this blog, which has details of the gum tree modelling CD that I put together some time ago.  I finally made them available to purchase direct from this blog (rather than occasionally via eBay, or from my display at the few exhibitions I get to attend).  You will also see the "Buy Now" button in the right hand menu column which goes to a PayPal purchase page.  I thank everyone for their support with these CD's with over 150 copies going out to interested modellers, where it has been rewarding to see others results after following my techniques.  It's been great to see some of those who now own the CD out and about with their efforts at local model railway exhibitions.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Lights and sound...

Hi all,
Time for some updates on activities in the studio.  After returning from the Australian Narrow Gauge Convention a few months back, I normally suffer from two thoughts...burn out from all the lead up to that event and the intense nature of the focused weekend, and then inspiration from who I've spent time talking too and bouncing ideas with.  So after a bit of a rest, and time to gather some thoughts, I ventured out to the studio to get work happening again.  I guess having a NMRA meeting on the calendar was also incentive to move along with a few sections of the build to have something semi presentable for my guests.

Construction projects in the last month or so have mainly involved getting some of the false roof and back drop mounted.  The false roof follows the some principle of the "boxed diorama" style of display I have used for all of my previous layouts.  Using an overhead lighting valance and lower fascia to create a viewing window into the scenes around the layout, therefore restricting the view to just the modelling.  Dedicated lighting for the layout mounted into the false roof provides a solid source of light for optimal viewing conditions.  The false roof was framed with light weight pine frames (mostly recycled from my old Triple Creek layout that was demolished from inside the house) and 3mm MDF panels.  The back scene panels are also 3mm MDF curved and glued to the plasterboard walls.  The blue chosen is the darkest shade of blue I wanted to use in the sky, and will be given a gradual fade down to the horizon using my airbrush. 

As far as the lighting for the actual layout, I have chosen to go with LED globes.  Previously I've used fluoro tubes, which I have been happy with as far as light output, but the hum of the tubes eventually gets annoying to my ears.  The battens for the fluoro lights can also be a bit heavy.  I have looked to light this layout with future supplies in mind.  I was going to use compact fluoro globes, which have good light output as well, but I'm as the use of LED becomes more wide spread, that these type of globes may become harder to match as replacements in the future.  I had experimented with LED strips, but am yet to be convinced with the amount of light they provide.  I have previously built a test strip with up to 4 rows of the LED strips, and they still didn't match to output I expect, to LED globes are the choice I have made based on LED lifespan and the good light these globes provide.  I have had to custom make the recessed fittings for these lights to work.  Firstly, limited space between the false roof and the real life mean these lights can't sit too high above the layout.  The second reason being that I didn't want the recessed down lights to create a spot light effect.  The custom fittings are fabricated with 75mm PVC water pipe, with the ends cut at 22 degrees angle so the globes throw good light at the foreground and background.  The depth of the recessed fitting is also so the globe head sits just below the false roof line to allow this good light spread.  The first overhead valance section was also installed, with the height set at about my eyebrow level.  At this height, it shields most of the light sources from my eye line when standing and operating.  I made a couple of simple jigs for cutting the light openings in the roof with a Dremel router, and one to set consistent valance levels.

I have also brought a couple of the scenery sections recycled from Gavin's old North Coast layout into the studio as well (with the large curved trestle bridge section needing some assistance from the demolition saw across the back side of it so it would fit through the door!).  The trestle bridge has been carefully disassembled as it needs to be levelled and run a different curve across the valley.  The other waterfall section is sitting in its rough location, awaiting construction of a new trestle bridge at the entry to the "Brooks" yard.

The end of the line, "Brooks" is the only section with track currently laid, and now powered after wiring in the DCC panel just prior to the NMRA meeting.  A bus wire has been temporarily run around from the central DCC heart to this end section, and the NCE wireless antenna (mounted from the roof above this Brooks yard, which is fairly central to the room) is wired in and tested.  The DCC heart of the layout is powered by a NCE SB3, with 3 DCC Specialties PowerShield X circuit protectors.  In the image below right, the view is of the wireless antenna mounted and hidden from view above the Brooks roof.  The NCE throttle is just plugged into the SB3 for testing purposes.  The night before the NMRA meeting was the first time I'd had the DCC system powered up in the studio for testing, and the first results were fine. The wireless system responded well from all corners of the room, and the one of my Haskell Puffing Billy Na's which has a decoder installed was able to take its first run in the Brooks yard.  Sound was good and performance reliable with the added Stay Alive capacitor on the loco.  It was rewarding to actually see some sound and movement along the rails again.  Always good for the enthusiasm to get this action happening.

The room had a bit of a tidy up prior to the NMRA meeting as well.  The bookshelf has been installed to hold my small reference library of railway books.  There is also a "projects storage unit" been built.  This is a storage rack with removable project work boards that pull out and get brought over to the work surface.  The hope is that this will keep projects contained to these boards, and in turn help keep my work benches a bit tidier in the long run.  I can also pick up all the project parts and carry inside to work in front of the TV if I want to.  The storage cupboards are also better organised than previous, such as now all scenery supplies are better arranged.  Other cupboards hold locos and rolling stock, or electrical supplies.

For the time being, the southern wall (where "Upper Gully" will eventually be built) will not have bench work built along it (the storage cupboards are along this wall).  Currently that wall will be used as a work zone for building my joint project "Cwm Machno Quarry" with Geoff.  That layout is about to resume work as it is a goal have the slate layout ready for the 2017 Australian Narrow Gauge Convention here in Geelong.  Cwm Machno has been dusted off and power run around to the work area, so I'll be back into carving and shaping slate rock faces again shortly.

While I had the blue paint out doing the base colour for Upper Gully & Brooks, Cwn Machno also got a quick base colour applied, although it is likely to have a fairly pale and hazy Welsh sky line painted over it.  I have also temporarily brought my Splitters Gorge diorama into the studio for storage.  It will eventually be disassembled and rebuilt as a deep valley (that sits above the book library), so as you enter the room, the right side of the isle will be dominated by the towering Mountain Ash trees, which will also help to view block the towns of Brooks and Upper Gully from each other.  I already have some rough ideas for what to do in the display box that Splitters Gorge is in after it gets rebuilt into the layout...maybe a personal little O-14 project?
I have an exhibition coming up in July up in Stawell, and will be up there with a display of my gum trees and a few dioramas.  Splitters Gorge will be up there it what will likely be one of its last shows before pulling it apart.  If any of you want to head up to the Grampians in a couple of weeks for the exhibition, please stop by and say hello.  Despite being a bit cold, its normally a pretty god exhibition, with a good range of traders and plenty of layouts on display. 

Friday, 10 April 2015

The 12th Australian Narrow Gauge Convention

Done and dusted.  Another Easter weekend of narrow gauge convention activities completed, and thoroughly enjoyed.  I made the long drive up to Bowral (about and hour or so South of Sydney) this last Easter long weekend, for the 12th edition of the Australian Narrow Gauge Convention.  Always an event I'm keen to get to and make the most of, catching up with other narrow gauge modellers and talking about this enjoyable and sometimes quirky hobby.
I got to see many faces that I haven't seen for about two years (since the previous ANGC in Melbourne in 2013), so always good to see how peoples projects have progressed.  There were a good range of clinic topics on offer, from casting techniques, weathering, diorama design, DCC tips, layout sound, working with brass etc, plus various presentations on prototype settings.  I was up there also to present my clinic on how I model my gum trees.
The modelling contest was well represented as well (as usual).  Perhaps a lower number of entries than I though would have been submitted, but quality was all there.  Each effort looked to be the modellers best efforts, and the standard was much appreciated by the viewers.  It was a tiring weekend, but also very rewarding.  I always find a NGC good for the spark to get the modelling enthusiasm going.  I've been busy on 1:1 work projects around home, so modelling time has been quite limited lately, and spending the intense time at the NGC gets the ideas well and truly going again.  I'm certainly keen to get back into some more creative adventures again.  Time to let the pictures tell the rest of the story...











At the conclusion of this most recent event, I was also able to finally announce that the hosting town for the 13th Australian Narrow Gauge Convention, to be held at Easter 2017, will be my home town, Geelong.  Planning is already well under way for this next ANGC, with a venue locked in, and discussions already had with The Bellarine Railway, to incorporate some preserved steam into this future event.  Websites and details will be released in the near future, but some interesting displays and topics are already being discussed, so something to lock in and start planning your holidays around!